Confessions of a Lore-Addict: The Importance of Theme and Context

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Fair warning, this post is going to be a bunch of lore and opinions wrapped up in a long rambling wrapper. It won’t be for everyone… and that’s OK, we all have parts of the hobby we like and don’t like as much! So with that out of the way, on with the show!

The world of Warhammer 40k is a large, alien, and dangerous galaxy, and while for some this is merely a backdrop to give their games a setting, for others such as myself it is a huge draw. Unlike Star Wars, or Star Trek, the future depicted in 40k is dire. Humanity is barely holding on, beset on all sides by the Alien, the Heretic, and worse still. It is to live in the worst time of human history. With such a rich backdrop, Games Workshop could choose to hold us to a fixed and pre-set canon, allowing no such deviance. But, for all their faults(And there are a great deal, make no mistake) they have always encouraged the universe as a sandbox, a plaything for the creative to let their ideas run amok. You could go with something silly, a parody, and the hobby is both accepting and encouraging of it. The popularity of the “Angry Marines” is well deserved; It’s hilarious! While on the other hand, one could focus their efforts on collecting a whole Space Marine company in all of its glory, its heraldry flying proudly across the tabletop.

It is this sense of creativity that spawns the truly great hobby content. Stuff like Blanchitshu, Iron Sleet, and Khornes Eternal Hunt all stem from this. Blanchitsu excels both from its almost tacit approval from GW, being featured heavily in the pages of White Dwarf, but also its rich lore and gothic imagery being truly striking.

Of these though, and while he probably has no idea I exist, KrautScientists blog over at https://eternalhunt.wordpress.com/ was possibly the biggest inspiration for my own world-building. In his World Eaters Warband, he has carefully and meticulously crafted a tale of treachery, bloodshed, honor, and martial pride that elevates the 4th Assault Company far above just another “40k Army”. From their birth in the heresy to the tragedy of the Battle of Skalathrax, he makes what could be the least interesting at face value of the Traitor Legions, the World Eaters, into something far more interesting then just pieces for a tabletop game; They’re people.

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There is more tragedy here then one could expect

Another inspiration was Dan Abnett. Of course, Gaunt’s Ghosts is the inspiration here. The novels are far more then just Sharpe in space; He stated once that in the 41st millennium there is not only war, there are people too. Never is this more apparent then in Gaunt’s Ghosts. Eisenhorn, Ravenor, as Inquisitors, they are, by their very nature, detached from the Imperial populace, granted the ability to go where they will, and do whatever it takes to accomplish their goals.

In the Guard, one doesn’t have that freedom of movement. Gaunt and his men travel from warzone to warzone at the whims of Imperial command, and the enemies they face are not the hulking traitor astartes(barring a few, very notable encounters), instead a reflection of humanity as it could be, corrupt and debased. Human characters such as Caffran, Larkin, Cuu, they all show humanity in its flawed glory. There is fear, doubt, but zeal and courage also. As well, the beginning of most of the novels is a piece from what appears to be an imperial textbook, hundreds of years later. The Gaunt’s Ghosts are in fact a historical period piece, in the context of the 41st millennium as a whole. There is a tangible sense of place, something that is sometimes lacking in the codex fluff and the game as a whole.

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The Guard, the most human of factions, both literally and in a more esoteric sense.

It is this backdrop that I decided to base my 40k army on, placing them into the same Crusade Gaunt and his First and Only reside in. In the novel Straight Silver, the Tanith are pulled from the line and sent to another planet. In my own little slice of 40k, my Regiment, the 1st Whitefall Light Infantry took its place on the line, intersecting if only in passing the great Gaunt’s Ghosts. I’ve written up the backstory of their homeworld, the frontier world of Whitefall, and their segregated ranks, with lowlanders, mostly cadian stock from a Regiment being allowed to settle there in the time of Saint Sabbat, and highlanders, zealous hill-folk clad in tartan and obsessed with clan honor. This serves zero purpose in the actual game; but it guides everything I build for them. Two thirty man platoons, 30 lowlanders and 30 highlanders, with their platoon officers being of their respective cultures. Only at the higher ranks does this segregation give way to practicality, with both highland and lowland officers serving together. A corp of Ministorum priests extols the virtues of the God-Emperor, and that of Saint Sabbat, as the world owes its salvation to her intervention hundreds of years prior.

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2 veteran sergeants of the 1st Whitefall; A lowland NCO in typical Cadian pattern equipment, and a highland sergeant in his kilt.
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Painting these guys has taken a backseat to the Vostroyans, but this is a typical highland Guardsman, wielding a local pattern lasgun, as the Cadian pattern equipment is typically given to lowlanders first, with highlanders forced to make do.
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Colonel Silas Hawthorne, Commanding Officer, 1st Whitefall. He uses the Creed rules, and is known for his maverick tactics.
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Lowland officers, one with a Whitefall Pattern Bolter.
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Not sure what he’s going to be used AS, but no Scottish theme guard army is complete without pipes!

Now the Imperial Guard, by its very nature, are a fragmented force. A holdover from the Horus Heresy, each regiment is strictly focused, each with a specific role to play. The 1st Whitefall are light infantry, and thus fight solely on foot, with no armor and IFVs(infantry fighting vehicles, like a chimera) of their own. Of course, in the tabletop an IG army without tanks is like a sandwich without filling, so my armor comes from the 3rd Pardus Armoured, and it is their tanks that serve in my tabletop army. The Vostroyans are from the 78th Siege Regiment, another infantry only force, the only exception being the artillery they need to punch holes in enemy defenses. All my flyers run Imperial Navy colors(or will, once painted) and my Scions are being worked on still, but will be from the planet of Terrax and the Schola Excubitos, one of the largest schola progenium in the galaxy, and known for their hard as nails commissars.

None of this is needed to actually play warhammer, but by naming my regiment and my company officers, and even my more accomplished sergeants, means that my dudes are TRULY my dudes. Sure, everyone has cadian models. But mine aren’t just cadians, they’re the 1st Whitefall! My own little slice of the 41st Millennium, that in the end no-one can take from me. My efforts to convert and kitbash my troops to be uniquely my own means I can take a certain amount of pride in their accomplishments on the tabletop, and their success there invariably leads to me working on them even more.

So, what motivates you to work on your army? Is it making a competitive force on the tabletop? An excuse to make up some half-baked fluff like I have? A mix? I’d love to get some feedback in the comments!(and to make sure comments WORK to start with!) I hope that my long rambling post has not bored you to tears, but instead offered a new way of looking at your little man-dollies!

I’ll be posting hobby content as much as possible, but you will occasionally get a few posts like this, as far as I’m concerned this IS part of the hobby. But, enough for today. Ave Imperator!

 

 

 

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